Alison is Professional Deputy for a number of clients including Beatrice, aged 88, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. Beatrice lives at home in the south west of England. She requires around the clock supervision, so she has two live in carers to support her. Beatrice is a widow with no children. She inherited significant sums from her late husband but over the past ten years all of her savings have been used to pay for her care costs. She has £30,000 of savings left and her home, which she owns.
Alison asked the local authority (LA) to assist in paying for Beatrice’s care costs. Alison wanted to make sure social care funding was in place in good time, so that Beatrice did not run out of money to pay for her carers and her living costs. The social worker told Alison that Social Services do not provide live in care packages and that as Beatrice has a big house, she should get an equity release to fund Beatrice’s care costs, or else move Beatrice to a care home and sell her house to pay the care fees.
Alison sought Cate’s advice about how to challenge the LA as she felt it would be hugely detrimental if Beatrice had to move to a care home. Alison also made an application to the Court of Protection for permission to secure an equity release, “just in case”.
Cate advised Alison that the LA were wrong to tell her that they did not provide live in care packages, and that if Beatrice was assessed as needing 24/7 care, then the LA would have a duty to meet those needs. While there was no guarantee of securing sufficient funding for Beatrice to stay at home, Cate advised that Alison should challenge the LA’s position and not, at this stage, draw down capital for Beatrice through equity release for Beatrice. Equity release might be necessary later on to fill in any gap in the LA social care funded package, but if Alison drew down equity now, she would put Beatrice back above the £23,250 capital limit and make Beatrice a self-funder for the long term.
Cate went through a fact finding process with Alison, to build up the arguments that it was in Beatrice’s best interests to remain at home. Beatrice’s main carer has been with her for nine years and she is crucial to keeping Beatrice settled. Beatrice had tried a care home two years ago when her main carer couldn’t manage on her own, but the placement had been so disastrous that Social Services had initiated a safeguarding enquiry to protect Beatrice. Social Services then made a best interest decision that Beatrice should be cared for at home with two carers and that the Deputy should use Beatrice’s money to pay for this package to keep Beatrice safe.
Cate sent a challenge letter to the LA, reminding them of their earlier best interest decision that care at home was the least restrictive option for Beatrice and that nothing had changed, apart from the fact that Beatrice now qualified for LA social care financial assistance. The letter reminded the LA of their duties under the Care Act 2014 to assess Beatrice’s needs, draw up a support plan and set a Personal Budget sufficient to meet Beatrice’s assessed needs.
The LA initially responded by telling Cate that they would pay a Personal Budget of £700 per week for Beatrice’s care at home, which is what they would pay for her in a care home. Beatrice’s care package costs between £1700 and £2000 per week. Cate sent a further challenge letter to the LA pointing out that their position was unlawful as it amounted to them imposing an arbitrary costs ceiling, which is a blanket policy. Cate suggested that rather than time and money being spent in Beatrice’s Deputy bringing judicial review proceedings against the LA, the LA should allocate a senior social worker to assess Beatrice’s needs and put forward a realistic and lawful personal budget figure.
The LA allocated a senior social worker who produced a skilled assessment of Beatrice’s needs. Beatrice’s Personal Budget was set at £1450 per week, to recognise her need for 1:1 care, and the time involved in managing her nutritional difficulties and very high anxiety levels. This was more than twice the original social care funding figure that the LA had proposed, but still left a funding gap for Beatrice.
Cate advised Alison that it would be possible to challenge the increased figure, but that the new assessment was thorough and the Court might accept the social worker’s professional opinion. Alison was very happy that the LA were prepared to pay more than twice their original proposed figure for Beatrice to stay at home. Cate secured an agreement from the LA that they would disregard any capital drawn down from equity release to top up the care costs, to ensure that Beatrice did not become a self-funder again. Alison obtained permission from the Court of Protection to get equity release as it was in Beatrice’s best interests to borrow a limited figure against her home to fund the difference between the social care payment and the full cost of care. Beatrice remains happy living at home.
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